Time flies when you’re having fun, hence why this week has gone so quickly. We have managed to accomplish a lot considering it is the beginning of this project and are making slow but steady progress; not only conserving the reefs, but also involving the island’s community and resorts.
Our main duties throughout the programme here on Cerf Island are to interact with the guests through guided snorkel trails and to make them aware of the impacts that are affecting the reefs and wild life that inhabit them. This is effective as most people need to experience the beauty of the reefs, and also see the destruction, in order to change their ways of thinking towards the marine environment and the small changes that they can make in their daily routine to contribute to a brighter future. To do this as effectively as possible, we have been partaking in presentations to further our own knowledge on the marine species inhabiting the reef in order to better inform the guests. We have also been performing simple tasks such as beach cleans, and raising awareness for sharks through demonstrating the kind nature of the Lemon Shark pups we have just outside Cerf Island Resort; how lucky are we?!
We have also been asked to maintain one of the island trecks which allows visitors to leisurely walk from one side to the other. Doing this little hike ourselves, we took GPS points and notes on interesting finds throughout the walk to show the guests, such as different plants/spices and their uses. Towards the end of the treck, when the other beach was in sight, we came across some mud flats that were home to a variety of crabs, as well as a giant Tortoise we later found out is called Matilda. We had plenty of selfie time with Matilda and, to say thank you, fed her copious amounts of her favourite leaves. We then headed towards the beach where we found our own little paradise, looking out at the Islands of St. Anne, Moyenne, Ronde and Longue. Here we had a few more photo opportunities and made friends with a little green Lizard (Green Gecko) as we rehydrated before making our way back over (keeping our spider stick handy to avoid any face to spider collision!)
Partnership is a strong aspect of this project and we began one of our days by meeting the residents of the Island and the Resorts to help strengthen the links between the partners. This also gave us the opportunity to introduce ourselves so they know what we are doing, why we are here and also gives them a point of call if they need any information concerning the programme or snorkelling tours. This worked both ways, in that we learned a lot about the Island, the problems Cerf faces and why these issues haven't been able to be resolved as of yet. This information is key to making a difference as without local knowledge and taking into account the history of the Island, this programme will not be able to work as a partnership and tackle the issues affecting the Marine Park. Once we had taken all this information on board, we needed to get in the water. The buoys at the Cerf Island Resort kayak points needed cleaning and this gave us the perfect opportunity to go for a paddle and get in the sea allowing us to get extremely familiar with the reef around these points so we may help guests experience and discover the little secretes Cerf Island has to offer.
With the success of the initial snorkel trail at Cerf Island Resort, other establishments wish to have one as well. L’habitation now have their own trail and Fairy Tern is on their way to having their own. In order to map a new trail we use the knowledge from the St. Anne’s Stewardship Project for which we now know the locations of the reefs. We then use a GPS, kayak and snorkelers to find the main points of interests that have been discovered such as areas with dense coral coverage and high levels of marine life. Though areas of delightful and colourful brain corals were found, large areas of rubble ridden areas were found as a result from the 1998 El nino event as well as the 2004 Tsunami. This and other areas are great candidates for a coral reef restoration project in which steel frames are used to attach broken fragments of coral, and granite boulders are used to create structurally complex habitats. Watch this space for more information and progress!
During our free time, we borrowed a kayak from Cerf Island Resort to paddle around this beautiful Island and see what other snorkeling spots it has to offer. The landscape is breathtaking; you discover a new paradise around every corner.
We would like to thank Cerf Island Resort for providing us with not only accommodation but also all the tools and hands we need to accomplish our goals. Without the support of this establishment this continuation project would not be possible and we look forward as other partners join in full force to see this project through. We would also like to commend the SNPA who are continuing their efforts in halting illegal fishing and happy to see an increased presence around the marine park to aid in the control of high speed boat traffic which often threatens the reef and snorkelers.
This week we have started to encompass other aspects of conservation and getting the CICP name out there. Firstly, we arranged and relabelled the snorkel equipment and are working to transform the room into a gallery for the project. Using the items we have collected on our beach cleans we have been able to display the amount of glass we find, as well as other items such as anchors and plastics. This enables us to show the guests how important it is not to litter and the effectiveness of our beach cleans. We are also aiming to create an area to display the 'Artificial reef project'. This will involve a small model of the frame we will be using to propagate the coral, an explanation of the project and various limestone skeletons to show the different coral species we have here. The gallery will also contain photos of the guests snorkelling, various volunteers who have helped the CICP and identification information for guests who wish to snorkel (such as ID books).
We have also spent time this week creating posters to go around the resorts and booklets, which inform guests that coral is in fact a live animal and therefore should not be stood on as well as information on the detrimental effects of shell collection. Hopefully this will encourage guests to take more care in the water and conserve the beauty of the environment around them.
Our usual kayak and snorkel trail maintenance took a leap forward this week as we made the hiking route more accessible. Armed with a machete, GPS and camera, we headed into the jungle to create a clear path and also note down all points at which we shall put signs - either as points of interest or to keep on the correct path. Once we had achieved this (3 hours later!), we started to design signs that will keep to the forest theme but are clear enough for people to see. This also gave us an opportunity to learn more about the species of plants and terrestrial wildlife that inhabit the area.
On that note, we had our first fish and coral ID test which actually wasn't so bad. We were able to see how much we have learned over the past few weeks and the results really motivated us to keep going. On top of all that, we have partaking in coral identification snorkels which have been not only educational, but actually a lot of fun! We are feeling much more confident in the water now that we are able to point wildlife out to the guests, and it also means every time we get in we are constantly testing ourselves.
~Natalie and Claire
Claire and Natalie are always smiling whether its cleaning, learning or snorkel time
Claire, Lauren and Natalie smile at the halfway point on the walk to the other side of Cerf Island.
*Read our next blog to find out who this mystery Lauren is!
Claire and Natalie use their heads to describe this type of coral!
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